When an explosion happens, everything in the vicinity quivers. If there’s only a small burst of air, following a detonated firecracker (Jason got excited and set it off on July 3 when his parents were out to dinner; he hid the opened package at the back of the medicine cabinet) or a match lit on the edge of the sidewalk, all that moves is a few blades of grass, stretching away from the warm air. If it’s the teenage neighbor boys lighting napalm or a car accident near Exit 6, there’ll be some dust to sweep up once the chunks of lawn hose and pieces of window shields have been properly removed from the scene.
On the off chance that an explosion is heard rolling down the crowded side streets in Chinatown, everyone will make a run for it, and there won’t be time to look back and think, “What was that and why does the pavement feel as if it’s about to drop away from my feet?” All there will be is rubber soles pounding to the rhythm of a heartbeat that seems like it’s coming from the wrong spot, from the throat, or the fingertips.
And then it’ll be over, and the world will be different from how it was before—saltier, more acidic, because everyone’s tears evaporated in the fire and now they’re all lingering in the air, combing through the streets for their owners.
Children will bend over to re-tie their shoes before the walk home, or wherever can become home, a house, a shelter for the night, stretching away from the warm air, still pulsating at the bottom of a subway station. The air will never cool around them.
Published at Goon and Darling Do Flash Fiction on June 5, 2012.